Retired Bourbon, Scott, Woodford judge honored by peers

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ/ Press Release) – The Kentucky District Judges Association has named retired District Judge Vanessa Dickson as the 2021 recipient of the Judge Robert W. Heaton Award.

Fayette District Judge John Lindsay Tackett nominated Judge Dickson for the award and Jefferson District Judge David P. Bowles honored her at the Kentucky District Judges College Sept. 21 in Lexington.

“It is my great privilege to present the award to Judge Dickson,” said Judge Bowles, who is chair of the Heaton Award Committee. “She continues to mentor new judges informally since retirement. She served many years as a member of the Kentucky District Judges Association Education Committee, always thoroughly prepared and mostly with a smile on her face! When she is not farming with her husband or filling in for us as a senior judge, she is growing the best tomatoes in the Bluegrass region. Her kindness and intellect are legendary. She knew and loved Bob Heaton, as many of us did.”

The award is named for Nelson County District Judge Robert W. Heaton, who passed away suddenly in 2012 while serving as KDJA president.

This is the sixth year the KDJA has presented the award to a sitting or retired district judge who has demonstrated enduring friendship and esprit among colleagues and judicial leadership.

The recipient has contributed to the commonwealth by volunteering in civic organizations, has promoted the image of the judiciary and the legal profession, and has a reputation for integrity, mentorship, scholarship and professionalism.

Dickson said she is incredibly honored to be chosen for an award in Heaton’s name.

“When I began in 2002, Judge Heaton taught at our first college and impressed all us young judges with a sense of our calling to serve with integrity, diligence and compassion for everyone in court,” she said. “His legacy is a generation of judges who strive to serve as he did.”

She was elected to the bench in 2002 and retired in 2018 after serving 16 years as a district judge for the 14th Judicial District, which consists of Bourbon, Scott and Woodford counties. She was a longtime member of the KDJA and also served as its president.

She is also a former partner at Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Duke University and a juris doctor from the University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law.

​Kentucky has 115 District Court judgeships and 60 judicial districts. District judges are elected on a nonpartisan basis and serve four-year terms.

District Court is the court of limited jurisdiction and handles juvenile matters, city and county ordinances, misdemeanors, violations, traffic offenses, probate of wills, arraignments, felony probable cause hearings, small claims involving $2,500 or less, civil cases involving $5,000 or less, voluntary and involuntary mental commitments, and cases relating to domestic violence and abuse.

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